Unless you’ve been on a boat without Internet for the last several years, you’ve probably already heard that smart B2B marketers are using account-based strategies to drive higher and more efficient revenue results. But what does that really mean? As ABM experts who’ve been at this a while, we’re happy to give you the high-level scoop…
First things first. What is ABM?
Account based marketing (ABM) is an approach that focuses your resources on the accounts most likely to drive your revenue. ABM is about the power and ROI of focus, collaboration, personalization, and orchestration.
Here are two definitions that we really like:
ABM coordinates interactions with every contact at an account, rather than treating each lead independently; and, ABM chooses which accounts to pursue rather than chasing whatever accounts marketing can attract. ABM is also more likely to extend beyond acquiring new customers to include marketing to existing customers for upsell, cross sell, and retention. – David Raab’s ABM Guide
ABM is a strategic approach that aligns demand creation, customer relationship programs and messaging against a set of defined accounts and goals in a way that is relevant and valuable to those accounts and to the sales team. – SiriusDecisions
Is ABM just hype or does it really work?
Short answer: ABM absolutely works — if it’s a fit for your use case. Here is some research about how effective ABM can be:
- 84% of marketers said that ABM had significant benefits to retaining and expanding existing client relationships. – Alterra Group TWEET THIS
- More than 80% say that ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives. – ITSMA TWEET THIS
- 86% of marketing and sales professionals from B2B companies have begun using targeted account strategies. – LeanData TWEET THIS
- More than 60% of B2B marketers surveyed said they plan to implement an ABM program within the next year. – SiriusDecisions TWEET THIS
How do you know if ABM could truly work at your company?
If you market and sell to organizations (i.e. B2B or B2B2C) AND you answer yes to three or more of the following questions, it’s likely that some form of ABM should be happening at your company:
- Do we have marketing automation and a CRM implemented at our company?
- Is there a group of prospect accounts in our market that rise above the others in terms of potential revenue, strategic importance, fit for our value proposition, profitability, or other key considerations?
- Do we have customer accounts that rise above the others in terms of potential revenue, strategic importance, value proposition, profitability, or other key considerations?
- Does our marketing team (including partners) have the ability and skill to create integrated campaigns?
- Do we have an inside sales, lead development, or telesales team who can spare a portion of one full-time employee to our ABM program?
- Are sales and marketing at least minimally aligned and able to collaborate effectively toward the shared goal of targeted revenue growth at our company?
- Can we reallocate a portion of our general marketing, advertising, content, event, and/or demand generation resources toward an ABM pilot?
If you answered YES to three or more questions, then your company would benefit from some flavor of ABM.
Is there only one way to do ABM?
Absolutely not! ABM isn’t a single thing. In fact, ABM is better understood as a continuum that matches your degree of focus, personalization and resource investment with your market opportunity for ABM. The trick is to match the right ABM approach with the right market ABM use case – while being realistic about your company’s capabilities. TWEET THIS
THREE PRIMARY APPROACHES TO ABM
A “one-to-many” ABM approach looks a lot like very targeted, very aligned, integrated demand generation. This approach makes sense when you’re pursuing thousands of target accounts with a value of low to medium. This assumes that you’ve identified your target accounts (likely at the segment level) and the personas within those accounts, and you’re creating customized content to engage and convert your targeted accounts and contacts along their buyer’s journey from top-of-funnel all the way to closed-won (and deep into loyalty). Technology is especially important for automating and operating this higher volume program at scale. Alignment with sales development, sales and/or account management is very important for this type of ABM, but not as utterly crucial as it is in the other two approaches, below.
This approach makes sense when you’re pursuing hundreds of accounts with a value of medium to high. This requires that you know your target accounts and contacts at an even more granular level (their needs, drivers, journeys, preferred channels, etc). And with that information, you can hone your attention on greater levels of personalization, and greater levels of collaboration with your sales (and other) stakeholders. Technology and data are very important within this ABM approach for target account definition, targeted content distribution, program efficiency and scaling, and of course, reporting and attribution. All that technology and data allows you to deliver a more refined message, have more detailed reports, and be able to demonstrate ROMI better. Alignment with sales development, sales and/or account management is essential for this type of ABM. The old days of “throwing MQL’s over the wall to the sales team” will absolutely not cut it.
This approach is the right fit when you are pursuing tens (or fewer) of hugely significant accounts. It requires the most focus, the most collaboration and alignment, and the most resource (per account). But it’s worth it because you are whale hunting! This approach means you are literally developing campaigns for a single company. You’re not communicating with archetypical personas; you’re communicating with named human beings within your target account. It’s as granular as it gets–the very definition of “personalized.” You’re focusing all your integrated team’s efforts to engage and move the “most-likely-to-drive-significant-revenue” accounts and contacts through the funnel. Technology and data are still very important, but you’ll be leveraging that technology and data in very human ways, high touch. Continuous, always-on alignment and collaboration with sales development, sales and/or account management is mandatory for this type of ABM. If you can’t achieve and sustain that degree of alignment, don’t attempt this type of AM. But if you can, get ready for some huge wins.
Can you implement more than one type of ABM?
Absolutely! We see many companies using a One-to-Many ABM approach as their “broad net” for generating awareness, engagement and conversion of new prospects. We see many of the same organizations using One-to-Few ABM for market opportunities where they need to focus and accelerate growth. And we see many organizations piloting and becoming adept at One-to-One ABM with their most important, key accounts. The funnel graphic below shows how all three approaches can/do co-exist within a single revenue process while leveraging a shared set of terminology, revenue stages and underlying foundation and infrastructure.
Sources: TOPO, Sirius Decisions, Intelligent Demand
What does it take to succeed with ABM?
So let’s assume you’re at least interested, if not outright sold on ABM as something worthy of your attention. Time for some hard truth: ABM results don’t happen automatically. Sorry.
Succeeding with ABM takes targeting, collaboration, personalization, and measurement. It’s going to take real work to unlock ABM’s promise at your company. Moving from the early stages of ABM to the most sophisticated version requires clean data and stakeholder alignment.
Tony Yang, VP of Marketing, Conversion Logic
Clean and reliable data is a requirement for accurate measurement, automation, and adaptation. And the greater the genuine stakeholder alignment within an organization, the more likely you are to see remarkable results from an ABM approach.
What is the right ABM process to follow?
There are many ABM processes and frameworks out there. We like SiriusDecisions, ITSMA, TOPO, Engagio, Demandbase, to name a few. But at Intelligent Demand, it’s our job to know, analyze, and test those various approaches and make them work in the real world. This is our recommended ABM process, at a high level:
STEP 1 – EVALUATE YOUR NEED FOR ABM
This step is where you analyze your use case for ABM and ask questions such as: would we truly benefit from ABM? If so, where should we use ABM (acquisition vs ret/expansion, geo/region, business unit/division, etc)? What type of ABM makes the most sense for us (1:Many, 1:Few, 1:1)? This is also the step where you begin educating your executive team and internal stakeholders about ABM: what it is, how it’s different than lead-centric demand gen, what it requires, how it delivers benefits, etc.
STEP 2 – ASSESS YOUR READINESS FOR ABM
This step uses ID’s ABM Process & Checklist to assess your readiness for ABM. It identifies strengths, assets, as well as gaps that need to be filled for success with ABR. Insights and Recommendations. This ABR Readiness Assessment is an ID Service. Let us know if you need help in this area.
STEP 3 – PREPARE FOR ABM
Based on what you learned in your readiness assessment, you’re going to need to get to “Basic Readiness for ABM.” This step is where you fill in those gaps, address those needs and make sure you have at least the minimal strategy, planning, systems, process, data, alignment, content, etc in place to have a successful pilot. The goal of this isn’t to become perfect (that will probably never happen). Instead, it’s about making sure you have the minimum things in place for succeeding with your ABM pilot.
Jessica Fewless, VP of ABM Strategy and Field and Partner Marketing, DemandBase
STEP 4 – PILOT ABM
You’re ready for your pilot! This is where you actually start to do ABM. You will start small. You will manage expectations. You will likely stumble a little bit and learn. But because you were prepared, you will succeed! This is another great place to leverage ID’s ABM Process & Checklist. Reach out to us if you’d like a copy and a discussion about how you can use it within your organization.
STEP 5 – SCALE ABM
This is where you scale. This step is actually many steps — i.e. the milestones in your ABM road map. Where are you going to take the success and lessons learned from your pilot? More accounts to drive acquisition? Customer Retention? Customer Upsell? Depends on the needs of your business and your roadmap. You will also evolve all of the elements of your ABM program – again, using your ABM Process & Checklist.
The ABM Funnel and Account Tiers
More and more B2B companies are looking to account based marketing strategies to not only attract new customers, but to expand and retain customer relationships — all of which leads to most, if not all marketers’ ultimate goal — increasing revenue for your organization. ABM is also helping marketers become trusted and needed by their peers in sales, gain more resources and budget (or get existing resources re-allocated to them), win awards, and earn promotions. And when it works, team members beat their targets, get fat commission checks, advance in their careers, and get invited to the beautiful beach vacations as part of their President’s Club awards. More importantly, an ABM approach will unlock better marketing and revenue performance on the right path to scalable revenue.